Duncan Smith, exec chef of Dazzle, on the "Hamdog" bomb
Smith wanted to learn more, so he packed his knives and headed for Minneapolis, where he enrolled in a culinary program, cooking in his spare time in an Italian restaurant. The culinary school only offered a two-year curriculum, though, and Smith was after a four-year BA program in culinary arts, which he found in Denver at the Art Institute of Colorado. And it was there that he reconnected with an old friend from Minneapolis, who was working at Dazzle. "I got a job at Dazzle doing desserts to start with, moved up to the sous job, and when they decided to get rid of the executive chef, they asked if I'd be interested in the exec-chef position, and there was no way I was going to pass it up," says Smith.
"I've been here for six years, and I love the place. I love that Donald Rossa, who owns Dazzle, gives his young chefs a lot of freedom, and while I played hockey growing up and was never remotely interested in jazz, I love having the music in the background while I'm cooking," he adds. "I really couldn't be happier."
In the following interview, Smith praises the pig, laments the short life span of the "hamdog" and explains why cooking with Matt Selby would make him even happier.
Six words to describe your food: Comforting, urban, simple, affordable, unique and tasty.
Ten words to describe you: Hardworking, serious, casual, humorous, jolly, goofy, picky, loving, giving and crazy.
What are your ingredient obsessions? From the snout to the tail, I love pig. I consider it a blank canvas that's got infinite possibilities, and while I was growing up, my family ate a lot of it, and I was always enthralled by all the different ways to prepare it. On any given occasion, whether it was Sunday family dinner or Christmas with my entire extended family, there was always pork on the table. I also love onions. They're a simple building block from which all dishes are created, and just about every dish I make has onions in some form or another. Last, but certainly not least, salt. Without salt, food is bleak, boring and worthless. It's the one ingredient that will make or break a dish, because it opens the door to a world of flavor; the lack of it will leave you disappointed and wanting more, while the overuse of it will destroy the delicate nuances of flavor. It's quite a powerful component, when you really think about it.
What are your kitchen-tool obsessions? Sharp knives. It comes down to the simple philosophy of using the right tool for the job, and having the right type of knife with a good edge gives me confidence. I'm not the type of chef who spends all day sharpening and polishing my knives, but I understand the importance of keeping good knives around if I expect good product to leave my kitchen.